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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Bethune

Cultivating Better Behaviour: The Case for Green Classrooms

It’s no secret that our physical environment can have a significant impact on mood and behaviour. As adults we are influenced by our surroundings every day. Take for example the brash colours and uncomfortable seating of your favourite fast-food chain. These deliberate interior choices are designed to encourage you to eat up and go. 



The classroom is no different. And, as teachers we go to great lengths to ensure our classrooms are set up for productivity, creativity and collaboration – with beautiful class displays and a well-considered seating arrangement – as well as moments of peace and calm with cocooned book nooks and story times.   


But have you considered the role that nature can play in fostering a positive learning atmosphere? Let's delve into why green classrooms may pave the way for better behaviour, wellbeing and learning. 


Nature Can Improve Our Mental Health 

Humans have an innate connection with nature which links back to our ancestral reliance on nature for survival. Biologist Edward Wilson called this ‘biophilia’ – a love of the natural world.  Today, exposure to green spaces has been proven to reduce stress and promote a sense of wellbeing. In fact, according to Dr Qing Li, Forest Bathing Expert and Immunologist, simply being in nature can have a profound effect on physical and mental health from improving anti-cancer proteins in our bodies to helping to overcome chronic mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Bringing nature into the classroom, even in small ways, can help to promote these benefits for you and the children.  


Enhanced Concentration 

Research suggests that having plants in classrooms (or even views outside of greenery) can improve concentration and cognitive function. Plants help to purify the air, increasing oxygen levels and reducing pollutants, which in turn enhances brain function. With improved concentration, students are better equipped to stay on task and engage with the material being taught, leading to fewer disruptions and instances of off-task behaviour. 


Promoting Responsibility and Care 

Introducing plants into the classroom provides an opportunity for students to take on responsibilities and develop a sense of ownership. By assigning tasks such as watering and caring for the plants, students learn valuable lessons in nurturing and sustainability – traits we want to promote in and outside of the classroom. 


Stimulating Language and Communication 

Green classroom environments serve as a fertile ground for sparking creativity, curiosity and language acquisition. Studies have shown that when nursery children are taught in ‘natural’ settings, compared to traditional classroom environments, they show enhanced language skills and a more diverse vocabulary. Why might this be? Researchers found that in natural settings, nature is constantly changing whereas classrooms mostly stay the same. Therefore, as weather changed, and seasons came and went, the children taught in natural settings needed a wider range of vocabulary to describe what they were seeing and interacting with on a daily basis.  


Find out more about how nature can impact mental health and wellbeing with our FREE chapter download of The Nature Fix from the award winning 'Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom, 2nd Edition'.









Creating a Positive Learning Environment 

A classroom filled with greenery creates a welcoming and aesthetically pleasing environment that promotes positivity. Studies have shown that exposure to nature can elevate our mood and improve overall wellbeing. There is even research that shows that when students have more access to greenery in classrooms, behaviour improves and there are more instances of pro-social behaviours (such as sharing, turn-taking and kindness). When students feel comfortable and content in their surroundings, they are more likely to exhibit cooperative behaviour, show respect for their peers and teachers, and actively participate in class activities. 

 

Go Green 

Incorporating greenery into classrooms isn't just about adding a decorative touch; it's about creating an environment that nurtures students' holistic development. From reducing stress to enhancing concentration and promoting responsibility, the benefits of green classrooms extend far beyond aesthetics.  


Why not set up a class project to grow plants in your classroom from seed, or reach out to your local community or garden centre for donations towards your green classrooms and see what impact it has on your class's behaviour?  



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